Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Update 07/17/2018

Posted in Black Hymeneal, Poetic Forms, Poetry, Prosody, The Audient Void, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 17, 2018 by Manuel Paul Arenas

With the rejection of my poem Black Hymeneal by The Audient Void, I think it is time for me to rethink my strategy here; I need to go back and hone my craft. I am going to take the rest of 2018 to study prosody and see if I can master at least a few poetic forms before attempting to submit anything else to the genre poetry journals. I still hope to privately publish some of my older pieces, but I am not going to bother submitting any of them to proper journals or magazines. I also have a few outstanding pieces, mostly stories, that I am awaiting some response on, but I must admit that my hopes aren’t high. I will of course keep you all informed of any developments.

 

Advertisements

Barbara Steele: Queen of the Italian Gothic Film

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 11, 2018 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Sometime back in the 1990’s I read an article in the Boston Globe about the original scream queen, Barbara Steele. I had never heard of her before then and was intrigued by the description they gave of her unusual beauty. For the next several months I scoured the video stores for her films but was hard pressed to find much. Fortunately, a co-worker had a laser disc of “Black Sunday” (original title La Maschera del Demonio, 1960) which he taped for me onto VHS so I could see it. I was overwhelmed by Mario Bava’s Gothic vision and by Steele’s preternatural beauty. But she’s not just a pretty face! She could hold her own alongside the big boys of the Horror film genre. In many of her films she would even play two roles, one of a put-upon heroine, and in the other her evil doppelgänger, as in Black Sunday where she plays both Princess Asa Vajda and her evil ancestor, the vampiric witch Katia Vajda

black sunday

Promo photo of Barbara Steele as Princess Asa Vajda in Black Sunday (1960).

 

 

That said, what a face she has; with her large eyes, pronounced cheekbones, and pouty, sensual, mouth she looks like a cross between a death’s head and a kewpie doll. Even so, she has a powerful sensuality about her that makes it difficult to take one’s eyes off of her whenever she is on screen. Hollywood dyed her lush ebon locks a peroxide blonde and unsuccessfully tried to cast her as an ingénue in an Elvis Presley film, which she promptly ran away from to seek her fortune in Italy. The Italian directors saw her potential, however, and made good use of her sepulchral pulchritude and featured her in several Gothic Horror films, the most celebrated of which is Black Sunday.

Black Sunday_1960_poster_Italian

Italian poster for “La Maschera del Demonio” (a/k/a “Black Sunday”, 1960).

Other significant films in which she starred are “The Horrible Dr. Hichcock” (L’Orribile segreto del Dr. Hichcock, 1962); “The Ghost” (Lo Spettro, 1963); “The Long Hair of Death” (I lunghi capelli della morte, 1964); “Castle of Blood” (Danza Macabra, 1964) and “Nightmare Castle” (Amanti d’oltretomba, 1965).

pit

Steele menaces Vincent Price in Roger Corman’s adaptation of “The Pit & the Pendulum” (1961).

 

Oddly, in her most significant English speaking genre role, Roger Corman’s adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” (1961) starring opposite Vincent Price, her voice was dubbed by another actress, which is a shame because she has a very distinctive British accent. In fact, most of her early roles seem to have been dubbed by other actresses. I myself never heard her real voice until I saw her appear in the 1990’s reboot of the Gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows”, where she resurrected the role of Dr. Julia Hoffman with much aplomb.

Julia-Hoffman-dark-shadows-resurrected

Barbara Steele as Dr. Julia Hoffman in the 1991 reboot of Dark Shadows.

 

She has appeared in many other TV shows and films over the decades, including Fellini’s “8½” (1963), “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (1961) and “The Winds of War” (1983) but is mostly known for her Gothic Horror films of the 60’s. Although aged 80 years at the time I am writing this, she is still active and most recently had a supporting role in Ryan Gosling’s dark fantasy thriller, “Lost River” (2014).

On a final note, in a perfect world, the young Barbara Steele would have made an excellent Azraelle. With her haunting looks and her uncanny charisma she would have brought an enticing terror to the Litch Queen as she has in all of her best roles. Do yourself a favor and check out one of her classic films and prepare to be bewitched.

black_sunday_by_bryanbaugh

Tribute to Black Sunday by artist Bryan Baugh (2015)

 

 

 

Black Hymeneal Update

Posted in Black Hymeneal, Denisse Montoya, Dimas Akelarre, Irish Pubs, Krampus, Uncategorized, Zachary Strupp with tags , , , , , , , on March 9, 2018 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Well, after a temporary hiatus, it seems that, with the help of my friends, things are getting back on track with the imminent completion and publication of my book, Black Hymeneal. My buddy Zach has helped me with the page numbering and sorting out the  Table of Contents (for which I still owe him breakfast!). That being done, it was time for my friend Denisse and I to work on the cover images. She picked me up after 7 pm a couple of Sundays ago and we drove to the Goodyear Farms Historic Cemetery to see if we might take a picture there, but it was closed. If I am not mistaken their sign said something to the effect that they close at twilight. No specific hour, just twilight. Hmmm. Another note of interest: whilst looking up information about the cemetery online I found a photo of one of the graves which actually bears the name of the ill-fated hero, Anacleto, from my story The Fell Fête! I may have to return sometime during daytime hours and pay my respects.

anacleto

Moving on, I then suggested we try an Irish pub, for their folksy atmosphere. Obligingly, she drove us back to my neck of the woods to Rosie McCaffrey’s where we had a Black Velvet (Guinness stout and hard cider) and she took an excellent photo of me, which I intend use as my “author photo” for the back of my book. That being done, we still needed to settle on an image for the front cover. Monday morning, during my daily ablutions, I had an epiphany: Denisse once took a photograph, that I have long wanted to use for just such a project, that ties in aesthetically with the content of my book. I asked her permission to use the image, and she graciously gave her consent, but I won’t post it yet, as I don’t want to jinx our endeavors by showing our hand too soon.

In other news, my buddy Dick Kelly has been sending me scans of some of the new artwork he’s come up with for our proposed Krampus chapbook. It looks pretty awesome and I cannot wait to see how it will all go together.

In between all of this, I have decided to stick my toes into the online journal submission pool. Over the last year or two I have sporadically submitted poems and prose pieces to various online journals and contests but to no avail. After a few months demurral I have decided to get back into the fray. I also have selected to submit to sites which are a little more in keeping with the weird poetry vibe I espouse to improve my chances of success.

For starters, I have sent my poem Dimas Akelarre to Literary Hatchet. I made some changes to it however, adding to it the subtitle The Warlock of Navarra to give a hint as to what it is about. I also removed the reference to Nyarlathotep, because it felt like a name-drop, and replaced it with the Great Black He-Goat, which is more appropriate thematically anyway. I also have my eye on the submission date for the 6th issue of The Audient Void. More on all of this as things develop.

Ursula K. Le Guin: The Grand Dame of American Fantasy & Science Fiction

Posted in A Wizard of Earthsea, Bildungsroman, Earthsea Cycle, Fantasy, Uncategorized, Ursula K. Le Guin with tags , , , , on January 26, 2018 by Manuel Paul Arenas

A few days ago I heard the sad news about the passing of author Ursula K. Le Guin, the outspoken grand dame of American Fantasy & Science Fiction whose career spanned over 50 years. I won’t pretend to be that knowledgeable about her vast body of influential work, but what I did read, I liked a lot.

Author Ursula K. LeGuin, 1973.

I believe I first heard of Le Guin through my colleague, Derek Fetler. Back in the days when Derek and I haunted the Cambridge open mike circuit as the Gloom Twins, there was a song we used to play that Derek had penned called Sparrowhawk, based on Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea (1968). I was not familiar with Le Guin’s work prior to that, but I was a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis from my childhood, so I was intrigued when Derek turned me on to the original Earthsea trilogy. I recall burning through A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1970), and The Farthest Shore (1972), which told the coming-of-age tale of Ged, a wizard from the isle of Gont, and getting totally absorbed in Le Guin’s very distinctive fantasy world.

The Bantam paperback editions of the original Earthsea Trilogy. I always loved the artwork on these by Pauline Ellison.

While still under her spell, I picked up a chapbook called From Elfland to Poughkeepsie (1973) which is an essay by Le Guin on writing fantasy that had some valuable insight on dialog writing that I have tried to follow to this day when writing my own dark fantasy tales.

Chapbook of Le Guin’s essay From Elfland to Poughkeepsie (1973, Pendragon Press).

Over the years I tried to find more Le Guin books to read, but since a good portion of her output is pure Science Fiction, a genre I don’t have much interest in, I stopped seeking out her books. I did however read the novella The Beginning Place (1980), as well as the story The Rule of Names (1964), the latter of which I really got a kick out of, but I haven’t read much else since.

The Wind’s Twelve Quarters (1979, Bantam) featuring another lovely cover by Pauline Ellison, where I first read The Rule of Names.

When Le Guin published a 4th novel in the Earthsea Cycle, Tehanu (1990), I was initially excited, but I was so deep into my exploration into H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos by then that I didn’t get around to picking it up until relatively recently and still haven’t read it yet. Apparently, there is also a 5th novel called The Other Wind (2001), as well as a short story collection called Tales from Earthsea (2001) which I have yet to read as well, but might take a look at now that I have begun re-reading the original trilogy.

Paperback copy of Tehanu (1991, Spectra) which I used to see everywhere when it first came out.

At the tail-end of 2004 I saw a SiFi Channel mini-series adaptation of the original trilogy called Legend of Earthsea (2004) which was a watered down affair with none of the wonder and wisdom from Le Guin’s novels. I understand Le Guin herself was dissatisfied with it and accused the producers of “whitewashing”, by casting a fair-skinned actor in the lead when Le Guin explicitly describes the inhabitants of Gont as being of reddish-brown cast.

1st edition of A Wizard of Earthsea (1968, Parnassus Press) featuring cover art by Ruth Robbins depicting Ged’s coppery countenance.

Apparently there is an anime as well, which is a very loose adaptation of the original trilogy that also had Le Guin in a tizzy:

“Ursula K Le Guin, the author of the Earthsea series, gave a mixed response to the film in her review on her website. Le Guin commended the visual animation in the film but stated that the plot departed so greatly from her story that she was “watching an entirely different story, confusingly enacted by people with the same names as in my story”. She also praised certain depictions of nature in the film, but felt that the production values of the film were not as high as previous works directed by Hayao Miyazaki, and that the film’s excitement was focused too much around scenes of violence. Her initial response to Gorō Miyazaki was “[I]t is not my book. It is your movie. It is a good movie”. However, she stated that the comment disclosed on the movie’s public blog did not portray her true feelings about the film’s vast departure from original stories; “taking bits and pieces out of context, and replacing the storylines with an entirely different plot…”” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tales_from_Earthsea_(film)#Reception, retrieved 01/25/2018]

Perhaps someday someone will come along and do it right. Till then, do yourself a favor and pick up Le Guin’s exquisite books.

PS: As I re-read A Wizard of Earthsea I am reminded constantly of Derek’s song, Sparrowhawk, the melody of which goes round on a loop in my head. I wish we had recorded it together. Perhaps someday we will.

 

Goodbye 2017

Posted in 2017, Black Hymeneal, Krampus, Nativity in Black, Uncategorized, Year End Review with tags , , , , , on December 18, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Well,  December is almost over and 2017 has already got one foot out of the door. Unfortunately, it will just be yet another in a sequence of shitty years for me. For starters nothing has changed since my last year end update. Black Hymeneal is still in limbo, waiting to be published. I have revamped the original manuscript, made some changes in the selection of poems, and rewritten the introductions then sent the manuscript to my friend Denisse Montoya who is supposed to help me with the cover art and layout, but I do not have an ETA on that at present.

My buddy Dick Kelly got sidetracked and wasn’t able to complete the Krampus illustrations for our proposed chapbook, but we recently talked and he said he was getting back on it. Again, I am hopeful, but there is no ETA at present.

I have been writing more these days and actually was able to write a prose piece I had conceived of last year then shelved. It is called Nativity in Black and I debuted it at the Space 55 7 Minutes Under the Mistletoe on 12/15/17. I have recently requested a video of my performance which I may post on here once I receive it, if I can figure out how to do that. Perhaps Denisse can help me with that as well. I also have been working fairly regularly on two stories from my Helldorado series, however, what has kept me from completing them in a timely manner is that my tablet shit the bed back in April and I cannot afford to replace it so I have had to do my work at the library where my access is limited and there are multiple distractions and no privacy.

I am still at the caption job and still have yet to make a single friend. I hate some of the calls I have to dictate, most actually, but it pays the bill for now. I still long for the day when I can make my living off of my art.

Speaking of living, I may have to live somewhere else by the end of 2018. My landlords are raising the rent so I have renewed my lease for the last time then my roomie and I are parting ways. So now my future living situation is uncertain.

Without getting into the boring details, my personal life hasn’t changed either. I had hoped sometime in my 50th year things would look up for me in that department, but no such luck so far. Perhaps it’s just as well. If I should decide to leave Arizona at the end of 2018 I will only have to worry about myself and no one else.

If I had to live in AZ for the rest of my life, I had hoped to make a name for myself writing Southwestern Gothic Horror, with a Latin bent, but I would gladly give that up if I can leave the Southwest all together.  I am so unhappy here. I would love to return to my beloved New England, but I don’t think I can afford that. I also don’t relish being so far away from my family if anything happens. Perhaps the Northwest would work. I will have to weigh my options very soon.

 

 

J.S. Le Fanu’s “Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter”

Posted in Brinsley Le Fanu, Ghost Stories, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Schalcken the Painter (1979), Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 6, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

I have been on a bit of a Le Fanu kick these days. J. Sheridan Le Fanu was a master of the Victorian Ghost story. I believe I have mentioned him here before. His most celebrated work is “Carmilla”, which was the inspiration for much of the moodiness and homoeroticism in modern vampire literature and is the indirect impetus behind Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. (A fact which I intend to explain further in another post sometime in the near future).
Even so, Le Fanu has many more great ghost tales to offer and was also an inspiration to M.R. James, the recognized master of the classic ghost tale. One of Le Fanu’s most famous works is “Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter” (1839), which I had been aware of for decades but had never actually read.

Illustration for “Strange Event in the Life of Schalcken the Painter” by Brinsley Le Fanu from “The Watcher and Other Weird Stories” [1894, Downey & Co., London]

I have no excuse however, as I had it in my Dover edition of “Best Stories of J.S. Le Fanu”, and could have read it any time over the last 25 years or so. I finally decided to read it the other day however and was not disappointed. It is the tale of a painter (Schalcken) who while under the apprenticeship of the “immortal Gerard Douw”, secretly falls in love with his niece, Rose. Although Douw suspects this, he decides his ward would have a better life being married to a rich man and reluctantly gives/sells her to a mysterious and insistent older suitor, Mynher Vanderhausen, for an extravagant sum of money. After the marriage contract is signed, Vanderhausen spirits her off and she isn’t seen or heard from for months. The painter and his master try in vain to find the suitor, whom no one seems to have heard of in his alleged home town, and they despair of ever learning the fate of their beloved Rose until one night she arrives unexpectedly at her guardian’s house in a tizzy making wild claims about her husband, repeatedly exclaiming “The dead and the living cannot be one–God has forbidden it!”. What transpires next is a classic example of subtlety and terror. As an aperitif, there is a hint of Rose’s fate in a dream that Schalcken has wherein he receives a visit from his long lost love. Very chilling stuff. It wasn’t as gruesome as some of his tales can be, but it was definitely creepy, and the fact that the nature of the antagonist or the threat he imposes is never really explained makes it as enigmatic as it is disturbing. This would probably not sit well with some modern readers, who might need more explicit or neatly tied up explanations, but I found the ambiguity very intriguing.

Apparently there is a 1979 BBC adaptation of this story, with an abbreviated title, which is available on DVD. I shall have to try to find a copy of it online and see what they did with it. I have seen some images from it online though and the uncanny look of Mynher Vanderhausen is reproduced exactly as he was described in the story, which is promising.

DVD for BBC adaptation of Le Fanu’s “Schalken the Painter”.

I have also just found a nice copy of the Folio Society’s 1988 hardbound edition of  Le Fanu’s classic Gothic novel “Uncle Silas” illustrated by Charles Stewart, which I intend to review here when I get around to reading it. Look here for more on that in the coming months.

My Lost Book Review: The Dark Eidolon

Posted in Clark Ashton Smith, S.T. Joshi, Uncategorized with tags , , on July 5, 2016 by Manuel Paul Arenas
A while back, the bookstore I work for asked the staff to write book reviews for the new website they were creating. They had to be brief, and on titles which were likely to be carried at one of our numerous locations. I chose “The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies” by Clark Ashton Smith. Unfortunately, the way the log in is set up on the computers at work, the credit for the review went to the last person to submit one, so my piece is attributed to another employee. To rectify this, I am reposting it here for you all to peruse.
Dark
Tagline: Excellent introduction to this macabre bard of the weird

“Clark Ashton Smith was an artist, sculptor, author and poet, known mostly today through his association with Horror icon H.P. Lovecraft. Although Smith did dabble in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos during his tenure with Weird Tales magazine, he was a master storyteller and wordsmith in his own right, specializing in exquisitely written fantasy tales and poems which smack of 19th century Orientalism and Gothic Horror. Featuring a generous selection of his sublime short stories, prose poems and metered verse, this collection by Penguin Classics, replete with an enlightening introduction and copious explanatory notes by Weird Tales scholar S.T. Joshi, is a great introduction to this macabre bard from the Golden Age of Pulp.”